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MSHA looks to accelerate tech uptake in underground ‘gassy’ mines

The US Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has proposed revisions to its standards that could speed up the testing of electric motor-driven mine equipment and accessories in underground “gassy” mines in the country.

Under the proposed rule, during a one-year transition period, mine operators could use equipment and accessories that meet either 14 voluntary consensus standards (VCS) or the existing MSHA approval requirements.

After that period, operators would be required to use the consensus standards for equipment and accessories covered by consensus standards, MSHA said.

“The proposed rule would improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the product approval process and promote the use of innovative technologies for improved mine safety and health,” it added.

Rich Nolan, National Mining Association president and CEO, said the industry had long advocated for updates to the standards.

“Current standards have resulted in a backlog of superior technologies awaiting MSHA approvals, even as those technologies are being used successfully in mines elsewhere around the world or by other occupations in the US,” he said.

“The proposed updates will allow us to provide the best available protection for miners through a more efficient and effective process.

“Put simply, this translates into people being safer sooner.”

The 14 VCS have been developed by the American National Standards Institute, the International Society of Automation, UL LLC and the International Electrotechnical Commission. They contain general and specific construction and testing requirements for equipment used in explosive gas atmospheres, explosive dust atmospheres or hazardous locations. The agency will accept tests from these organisations in lieu of MSHA’s standards, the NMA said.

Examples of equipment covered by the regulations include portable two-way radios, remote control units, longwall mining systems, portable oxygen detectors, miner-wearable components for proximity detection systems, and powered air-purifying respirators.

“NMA and its members have tenaciously worked for this change to streamline the process by which MSHA approves and certifies equipment for use in gassy mines,” the NMA said.

(Photo courtesy of Peabody Energy Inc)